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The Role of Sustainability in the Data Center Space

April 25, 2017  |  Written by Aaron Binkley, Director, Sustainability

As Digital Realty’s head of sustainability programs, I sat down with REIT.com earlier this year at NAREIT’s 2017 Leader in the Light Working Forum in Austin, Texas to discuss sustainability initiatives in the data center space, as well as Digital Realty’s work to improve sustainability efforts in its own facilities.

Below are some of the highlights that were discussed.

One thing Digital Realty has done to make its sustainability projects a priority is to provide them with a pool of capital to draw from. Whereas in the past, all internal projects were essentially vying for the same dollars, we are now getting our teams thinking differently about capital investment projects that have an energy savings payback versus those that do not. For example, installing variable frequency drives in CRAC units results significant energy savings, while re-striping the parking lot does not. It can be useful to separate these different types of projects when thinking about budgets.

Because facilities operate 24/7 and because running the Internet takes a massive amount of energy, the data center industry is a huge consumer of energy. For that reason, data center sustainability initiatives need to be at the scale of their facilities, not simply an efficient installed lightbulb here or there. 

One of Digital Realty’s recent moves was to purchase the output from an 88 megawatt wind farm. This supplies enough renewable energy to make our entire U.S. retail colocation business renewably powered.

Transparency is one of the most important aspects of sustainability initiatives at Digital Realty. We have found that our customers and stakeholders appreciate knowing what steps we are taking to promote sustainability and reduce energy consumption in our facilities. 

Going forward, Digital Realty is committed to continuing this imperfect journey towards a more perfect future, and sharing the steps of that journey with those directly involved in our business, as well as observers in the industry.

Want to learn more about Digital Realty’s approach to sustainability? Click here to learn more about our approach, or watch my full video interview with REIT.com.

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